When Neuroscience ‘Touches’ Architecture: From Hapticity to a Supramodal Functioning of the Human Brain

Frontiers in Psychology 7:186785 (2016)
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In the last decades, the rapid growth of functional brain imaging methodologies allowed cognitive neuroscience to address open questions in philosophy and the social sciences. At the same time, novel insights from cognitive neuroscience research have begun to influence various disciplines, leading to a turn to cognition and emotion in the fields of planning and architectural design. Since 2003, the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture has been supporting ‘neuro-architecture’ as a way to connect neuroscience and the study of behavioral responses to the built environment. Among the many topics related to multisensory perceptual integration and embodiment, the concept of hapticity was recently introduced, suggesting a pivotal role of touch and haptic imagery in architectural appraisal. Arguments have thus risen in favor of the existence of shared cognitive foundations between hapticity and the supramodal functional architecture of the human brain. Precisely, supramodality refers to the functional feature of defined brain regions to process and represent specific information content in a more abstract way, independently of the sensory modality conveying such information to the brain. Here we highlight some commonalities and differences between the concepts of hapticity and supramodality according to the distinctive perspectives of architecture and cognitive neuroscience. This comparison and connection between these two different approaches may lead to novel observations in regard to people-environment relationships, and even provide empirical foundations for a renewed evidence-based design theory.



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